Steep Canyon Rangers are an American bluegrass band from Brevard, North Carolina. Though formed in 2000, the band has become widely known since 2009 for collaborating with actor/banjoist Steve Martin. In 2013, the Steep Canyon Rangers' solo album Nobody Knows You won the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album. The previous year, their 2012 collaboration with Steve Martin, Rare Bird Alert, was nominated for the same award. Steep Canyon Rangers have recorded 9 solo albums plus two collaborative albums with Steve Martin. SCR performed as a quintet for nearly a decade before intermittent touring began as a sextet with Steve Martin; the band still performs in both configurations.
In May 2013, Steve Martin & SCR began performing with Edie Brickell after she and Martin co-wrote and recorded an album together, Love Has Come For You, produced by Peter Asher. The record featured performances by Steep Canyon Rangers, Sara Watkins, Esperanza Spalding and others.
Woody Platt — acoustic guitar, lead vocals
Graham Sharp — banjo, lead/harmony vocals
Mike Guggino — mandolin, harmony vocals
Charles R. Humphrey III — upright bass, vocals
Nicky Sanders — fiddle, vocals
Mike Ashworth — box kit, cajón, vocals
Steep Canyon Rangers formed in 2000 while students at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. The core group consisted of Woody Platt (guitar), Graham Sharp (banjo) and Charles R. Humphrey III (upright bass). Early on, Platt's childhood friend, Mike Guggino (mandolin), was asked to join. With original fiddler, Lizzie Hamilton, completing the quintet, Steep Canyon Rangers garnered fans across the U.S. performing festivals from North Carolina to Colorado. Two albums of original music were recorded with the early lineup: "Old Dreams and New Dreams" and "Mr. Taylor's New Home." In 2001, the Rangers took first prize in Lyons, CO at the Rockygrass Festival band competition earning the Rangers a main stage performance the following year. Hamilton left the group in 2003 but heavy touring continued with a rotation of fiddlers leading up to the eponymous CD "Steep Canyon Rangers" (released 2004) on Rebel Records. The album contained a dozen more original songs and featured guests Josh Goforth and John Garris on fiddle.
In 2004, Nicky Sanders approached the band for the position of full-time fiddle player and subsequently joined in July. The Rangers recorded their fourth album, "One Dime at a Time" in 2005 with producer Mike Bub (Del McCoury Band). The next year the band won Emerging Artist of the Year at the International Bluegrass Music Association Awards ceremony. Following the release of their fifth album in 2007, the band received two more IBMA nominations for Best Album ("Lovin' Pretty Women") and Gospel Performance of the Year ("Be Still Moses"). In 2010, Sanders's fiddle tune "Mourning Dove" was nominated for IBMA Instrumental Song of the Year.
With Steve Martin
In May 2009, Steep Canyon Rangers were asked by banjoist/comedian Steve Martin to perform with him (as a sextet) in a benefit concert for the Los Angeles Public Library: featuring banjo and comedy. This first collaborative performance took place at Club Nokia in Los Angeles, CA and was met with much acclaim. Martin subsequently asked the Rangers to accompany him on a "world bluegrass tour" taking the group to venues such as Carnegie Hall (New York), Royal Festival Hall (London) and the Wang Center in Boston. While in England, the group also performed on the critically acclaimed music TV show, Later with Jools Holland. On June 27, 2009, Steve Martin and SCR were featured on a broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion. Soon after, Martin played with the band at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in San Francisco. and Benaroya Hall in Seattle. Martin appeared with the Steep Canyon Rangers at the 2010 Bonnaroo Music Festival and then on Austin City Limits on November 6, 2010. On July 4, 2011 Martin and SCR performed A Capitol Fourth celebration on the West Lawn of the US Capitol Building.
In the summer of 2010, Steve Martin and SCR recorded their first collaborative album, Rare Bird Alert at Echo Mountain Recording in Asheville, NC. The album contained tracks primarily composed by Martin and featured guest vocal appearances by Paul McCartney and the Dixie Chicks. The CD was released the following March, and then on September 29, 2011, Martin and the Rangers were jointly named Entertainers of the Year at the IBMA Awards ceremony in Nashville, TN. In May 2012, Martin and the Rangers played at the 5th annual DelFest as a headlining act.
Continued touring and Grammy Awards
In 2011, Steep Canyon Rangers signed with Rounder Records with lead singer Woody Platt saying "[the Rangers] are honored to join Rounder Records and be a part of such a rich musical history." The band has recorded three records on the label as well as two collaborations with Steve Martin. A percussionist, Michael Ashworth, was added to the tour in 2013 and subsequently joined the Rangers as full-time member in the fall; Ashworth's performances feature a signature "box kit" consisting of multiple cajóns mixed with standard and modified drum hardware; it is sometimes referred to as a "cajón drum kit."
In 2013, the Steep Canyon Rangers' solo album Nobody Knows You won the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album. The previous year, their 2012 collaboration with Steve Martin, Rare Bird Alert, was nominated for the same award.